Albania isn’t necessarily the first place that springs to mind when considering European holiday destinations, but the staggering levels of beauty, combined with being excellent value for money, mean that any who add it to their itinerary are in for a real treat.
With borders the ever-popular Greece and increasingly popular Montenegro, it shouldn’t be surprising that Albania is swathed in beauty. But it’s only been in recent years that we’ve been able to uncover it, with the country having been closed to foreign visitors for best part of the 20th century.
However, having tentatively creaked opened its doors in 1991, the glorious landscapes, historical ancient sights, idyllic beaches and lively capital city have been unearthed – and only just about remain a badly-kept secret.
If you’re looking for an alternative to the busy coastal resorts of the Med, beach holidays in Albania are the perfect option. The Albanian Riviera is home to some truly glorious stretches of golden sand and crystal-clear waters, worthy of any of Europe’s top destinations and visitors can dip their toes in either the Adriatic Sea or, slightly further south, the Ionian Sea.
Drymades Beach is nothing short of stunning and, as if to make it even more dreamy, it rarely gets crowded. Nearby, Dhermi Beach is another gorgeous option, if a little more popular, while Borsh Beach boasts seven kilometres of sand, set against a backdrop of mountain peaks and olive groves. If, however, you don’t mind jostling with the crowds for a good spot to catch some rays, then Ksamil Beach south of Sarande, is the country’s crème de la crème of beaches.
Tirana, the country’s bouncing capital, is an excellent option for city breaks in Albania and while it remains relatively under the radar compared to its European counterparts, now is the perfect time to visit.
The city’s museums and galleries are second-to-none, not least BunkArt. Built in the 1970s by former dictator Enver Hoxha, this bunker now provides a fascinating step back in time to explore Albania’s Communist heritage. The National History Museum is another great place for uncovering more about the country’s past.
The Dajti Ekspres cable car gives stunning, panoramic views across Tirana and beyond, while the Grand Park of Tirana is a beautiful spot to unwind and explore the zoo, wander the gardens and relax by the lake.
In the south of the country, Sarande is blessed with a picturesque seafront, hilltop castle ruins boasting scenic views and enjoys the best of the weather in Albania, making it an ideal year-round destination, with more than 300 sunny days. After dark, it’s better known for its lively nightlife.
Head to the north of Albania and you’ll swap sweeping stretches of sandy beach for rugged, mountainous terrain among the Albanian Alps, perfect for hiking. Valbona Valley National Park is home to untouched, diverse landscapes and natural features, including glaciers, waterfalls and forests.
Just south of lively Sarande, by the Greek border, sits Albania’s largest archaeological park – the UNESCO World Heritage site of Butrint. Here, Greek, Roman and medieval remains of an ancient basilica, Venetian castle and theatre can be enjoyed.
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